By Staff Sgt. Rob Strain, 15th Sustainment Brigade Public AffairsDecember 9, 2009
CONTINGENCY OPERATING LOCATION Q-WEST, Iraq - Soldiers from across Contingency Operating Location Q-West, Iraq, gathered for a Native American heritage celebration at the Morale, Welfare and Recreation Center here Nov. 27.
The celebration, hosted by the 395th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), featured a poem written by Spc. Ashley Blake, a Yup'ik Eskimo dance performed by Sgt. Vernita Bunyan, and a movie focused on modern Native Americans.
The event's guest speaker 1st Lt. Gerald Halfhide, the services and supplies officer for the 395th CSSB, spoke of how he traced his Native American lineage back to the time of the pilgrims.
He explained that members of his tribe were the natives that helped show the pilgrims how to live on the land, and in turn, were a part of the first Thanksgiving celebration.
"I'm proud to know my ancestors were a part of the first Thanksgiving," he said.
Halfhide encouraged the Soldiers in the audience to learn the history, culture and philosophy of Native Americans, in order to help dispel stereotypes.
"No, we don't all live on reservations, and we don't all want to open a casino," Halfhide joked.
Col. Larry Phelps, the commander of the 15th Sust. Bde., said it was important for Soldiers to understand other cultures.
"There is a purpose to every movement [in the Eskimo dance]," Phelps said, encouraging the audience to understand them.
Native Americans haven't always been treated properly by the immigrants to their land, Phelps said.
"They were people who lived off the land, and we sent them to where the land would not support them," he said, referring to reservations.
"It's our past," Phelps said. "We can run from it, or learn from it."
Phelps explained that most Americans are immigrants, and in order to make a better future, people need to learn from the mistakes in the past.
He challenged the audience to do something to make the future better.
"So what are you going to do about all of this'" he asked.